Best of 2020: Cover Song, Jam & What We Missed The Most

As we continue to warm up to the new year, there are a few more musical moments from 2020 that merit special recognition. Here’s the best of what last year had to offer for cover songs and jams and what we missed the most.

Best Cover Song

There were a lot of interesting nominations for this category. With bands and artists quarantined at home like the rest of us, that left plenty of time to learn new material and maybe take a stab at some unique covers. The winner this year goes to moe. and their take on “West LA Fadeaway,” from the 1987 Grateful Dead album In The Dark.

This one went down at Big Blue North Recording Studio in Utica, NY. After scheduled shows at Vernon Downs were cancelled, the band scrambled and Plan B was to play the shows where they had been rehearsing. The extra-bouncey effect on Rob Derhak’s bass and Jim Loughlin on percussion give this Dead classic a fun, uplifting vibe that does justice to the original.

Other nominees for Best Cover Song included Silversun Pickups and their cover of Martika’a 1988 hit “Toy Soldiers,” Vaporeyes and their take on the Gorillaz classic “Clint Eastwood,” and a breathtaking rendition of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” from Lianne La Havas.

Best Jam

The nominations for Best Jam of 2020 were once again varied and spread across far across the musical spectrum. But, once again, the winner has roots deeply established in New York State. Like many other bands last year, Buffalo’s Aqueous had to resort to Drive-In movie theaters as venues to play for any mass gathering. And their second set on June 21 at the Transit Drive-In Theatre in nearby Lockport goes down as the jam of the year.

It was comprised of only one song, an extremely stretched out and versatile “Half In, Half Out.” This particular version reached new heights as it goes on for nearly 68 minutes and showcases the band’s full repertoire. This musical assault seems to have about a dozen different sections that mesh together to form something special. One of the earlier ones is an exact replica of the ending sequence of Phish’s “Sample In A Jar.” The rest of jam features notes of funk, reggae, trance and blissful rock, all while never growing stale. Teases from Rush, Pink Floyd and Red Hot Chili Peppers also abound. Throw in a freshly mohawked Mike Gantzer on guitar and that’s more than enough to bestow “Best of” honors for this one.

Other finalists in this esteemed category were the “Stash” from Trey Anastasio’s Beacon Jams, Vaporeyes’ “Quarantine Jams,” and Yo La Tengo’s annual Hanukkah show.

What We Missed The Most

This contest, predictably, yielded a bit more of a clear consensus. It’s evident from the responses that thing people missed the most in 2020 is the personal and social interaction that go hand in hand with live music. Of course the music is nice (it finished a distant second), but it doesn’t seem to matter as much without the friends and the environment that comes with a show.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that human interactions certainly goes a long way. And one response mentions one of these that undoubtedly anyone who has ever been to show can relate to in saying, “I miss being in a large room with strangers who instantly become your best friends just because you share the connection of loving a particular musician or band.” Whether it’s reuniting with old friends or making new ones, let’s hope 2021 gives us a chance to do both. And the live music can come along too.

aqueousBest of 2020Jim LoughlinMike Ganztermoe.Rob Derhak